Book Presentation Lecture: The Ijaws And The Nigerian Project By Prof Okaba 


Being text of the lecture delivered by Professor Benjamin Okaba, 

Dean School of Post-Graduate Studies, Federal University Otuoke, 

Bayelsa State, on the occasion of the official presentation of the book 

titled “HEROES OF IJO (IJAW) NATION” at the Ijaw House, 

th Yenagoa, Bayelsa State on Friday 26 November, 2020.

1. Protocol: 

– Chairman of the Occasion

HRM King. Justice F. F. Tabai (Rtd)

– Distinguished Guest of Honour

H.E. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan

Former President of Nigeria

H.E. Excellency Senator Douye Diri

Governor of Bayelsa State

H.E. Excellency Senator Lawrence Ewrudjakpor

Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State

H.E. Deacon Kingsley Otuaro

Deputy Governor of Delta State

Hon. Chief Timipre Martin Sylva

Minister of Petroleum Resources (State)

– Guests of Honour

– Federal and State Legislators Present

– Top Government Functionaries

– Royal Majesties 

– Captains of Industries

– Father of the Day

– Other distinguished Invitees

– Gentlemen of the Press

– Ladies and Gentlemen

2. Introduction:

Permit me to return all the Glory to the Almighty God for granting us the 

privilege to gather here today; and also appreciate the HINREC GROUP, 

the organizers of this event for considering me worthy of presenting the 

Guest Lecture in this epoch making ceremony .I wish to acknowledge 

the ingenuity of the organizers of the programme for the choice of title – 

Ijaws and the Nigerian Project which is so dear to me, and especially at 

this crucial phase in our nationhood where like others, we need to 

redefine, re -strategize, rearticulate and reawaken consciousness in all 

Ijaw people on true Ijaw nationalism, that centres around self 

determination and self actualization.

As a point of departure, I wish to refer to remarks and complaints from 

social analysts, that while listening to the two Commentators that were 

giving glowing tributes and accolades to the pioneer nationalists, 

architects and political engineers of the Nigerian project during Nigeria’s 

60th Independence Day Celebration at the Eagle’s Square Abuja on the 

st 1 of October, 2020, no mention of any Ijaw man was made as one of the 

heroes of the Nigerian Nation.

As shocking and discomforting this grievous omission seems, it must be 

examined and located within the context of an age long orchestrated 

attempt to assimilate, subdue, suppress and obliterate the Ijaw voice and 

identity from national discourse and relevance. The Ijaw National 

Congress (INC) Occasional Paper of June 2006 had earlier observed 


In our resonating appeal

a g a i n s t s o c i a l a n d

environmental injustices and 

under-development. We are 

virulently portrayed as

renegades, trouble makers, 

war mongers and agents of 

national destabilization.

(INC Occasional Paper


Therefore, one of the salient objectives of this lecture is to change the 

ugly narrative of the ljaw people as mere spectators, idle minded, 

dubious agitators, economic saboteurs, insurgents etc. We must 

deliberately examine, advertise and amplify what the Ijaws are by nature 

 as truthfully trustworthy, enterprising and industrious, well educated, 
civilized and cultured, amiable and accommodating, focused, diligent 

but resilient in their legitimate quest for justice, equity and fairness. 

(Okaba 2018)

The experience and challenge of reading about and growing up in 

Nigeria where the Ijaws are frequently and frontally demonized, 

castigated, molested and dehumanized, while their enormous sacrifices 

to preserve and sustain Nigeria’s past and present are swept under the 

carpet, gives me enough impetus to lend my humble voice to the ever 

vibrant and it repressible voices of the likes of Annkio Briggs, Prof. 

Kimse Okoko, Pa Edwin Clark, Comrade Joseph Evah (and many 

others) to set the records straight, as to the fact that Ijaws remain a huge 

asset to the Nigerian Project.

The attempt to trace the historical, political and economic trajectory of 

Ijaw nationality is intended to expose the sorrowful plights, pains and 

challenges the Ijaws have and are still experiencing as a disadvantaged 

people in Nigeria – inspite of the abundant blessings in resources and 

potentialities nature has bestowed on them.

The essence of archiving, immortalizing and celebrating the Ijaw nation 

and Ijaw heroes and heroines, is to boast self-esteem, self-respect and 

engender hope in the present and future generations of Ijaws in the fact 

that irrespective of the odds against them, their ancestors did not 

succumb to intimidation. Instead many excelled and created admirable 

records as the first and best in many fields .Ijaw nation and people would 

have done extremely better if allowed to manage and control their 

resources as it was the case when Hausa-Fulani had groundnut, Yoruba 

had Cocoa and Igbos had palm oil before oil was discovered in Ijaw land 

in late 1950s.

It is against this backdrop that the rest of the paper shall address the 


a) The Ijaws and the Nigerian state. Aconceptualization

b) Contributions of Ijaws and the Ijaw nation to moulding and sustaining the Nigerian Project. 

c) Concerns and challenges of the Ijaws in the Nigerian state 

d) The way forward for a stable and peaceful Nigeria, and a 

united and prosperous Ijaw Nation

e) Concluding remarks

3. The Ijaws, And the Nigerian State. A brief


3.1. The Ijaw Nation

The Ijaws are situated in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region. They are the 

fourth largest ethno linguistic group in the country. With regards to 

administrative spread, the Ijaws are found in six states, namely; Bayelsa 

(8/8 LGAs), Delta (4/25 LGAs), Rivers (8/23 LGAs) Edo (spread as 

minorities in Ovia South East, Ovia North East and IkpobaOkha), Ondo, 

(dominant in Ese-Odo with the Taribo-Ijaws fragmented into Odigbo 

LGA; Akwa Ibom (Eastern Obolo, Ibeno and the 5 Oron LGAs of Oron, 

Urue Offong Oruko, Okobo, Mbo, Udung Uko. Some accounts however 

note that aboriginal Ijaws are also found in Abia (Bende, Ukwa East and 

Ukwa West) and Cross River states too. Many are found as migrant 

fishermen in camps as far West as Sierra Leone and as far East as Gabon 

(Gedicks, 2001:50). Population figures for the Ijaws vary greatly though 

range from 13 million to 15 million (Appiah & Gates, 2010: 596), 

(Gedicks, 2001:50), (Bob, 2005:55) They have long lived in locations 

near many sea trade routes, and were well connected to other areas by 

trade as early as the 15th century. The Ijaws are predominantly fishermen 

and women with some involving in crop farming, artisanal works, and 

limited commercial activities. Much of the oil, including palm oil and 

crude oil and gas in Nigeria are found in Ijaw enclaves within the Niger 

Delta. Consequently, there has become a marked change in the 

indigenous occupation of the people as yields from fishing and farming 

have become largely reduced or threatened. Many have migrated to 

cities in search of scarce sources of livelihood.

Evidence abound that it was from the central Ijaw territory that other 

Ijaw groups expanded westwards to mingle with the Yoruba speaking 

communities and east wards to lose their cultural identity and become 

the Ibibio-speaking Andoni and Ibeno tribes of the former Calabar 

province. Important cultural and linguistic differences, however, had 

led scholars to categorize the Ijaw into three major groups (Talbot 


 (1). The Eastern Ijaw who live to the east of the Nun River, 

(2) Central Ijaw who occupy between the Nun and Pennington 

Rivers and 

(3) The Western Ijaw who inhabit the area between the Pennigton 

and Forcados Rivers. (Alagoa 1972).

The Ijaws speak a variety of closely relate Niger Congo Sub-languages 

which includes Izon, Kalabari, Obolo, Ibani, Wakrike, Nkoro, Nembe, 

Ogbia, Biseni, Bille, Atala, Kula, Apoi, Atissa, Epie etc.

God the Supreme Creator is referred to as Ayiba (Begotter as well as 

killer), Tamarau or Tamuno (Creator), Woyin (our mother). The 

feminine concept of God is a reflection of their matrilineal lineage 

system (Horton, 1967; Okaba, 1997). 

The belief in life after death and veneration of Ancestors (Opuaduwei) 

plays a key role in Ijaw indigenous religion. While water spirits (Beni-

oru), Owuamapu and the practice of divination or the act of necromancy 

(Igbadai, Obobo-bi) in which recently deceased persons spirit is invoked 

and interrogated on the cause of death etc. play prominent role in Ijaw 


Every clan – Ibe and city-state had a national deity called Egbesu, 

Amatame-Suo, Amakiri Kuro etc. (Okaba, 1997 pp. 61-62). Central to 

Ijaw festival is the place of masquerades. 

In pre-colonial Nigeria, the Ijaws had a somewhat organized system of 

administration in the various communities and clans which was largely 

based on the House (canoe) System, with elders playing key roles in 

leadership. The Ijaws were one of the first of Nigeria’s peoples to have 

contact with Westerners, and were active as intermediaries in the slave 

trade between visiting Europeans and the peoples of the interior, 

particularly in the era before the discovery of quinine. Some of the kin-

based trading lineages that arose among the Ijaws developed into 

substantial corporations which were known as “houses”; each house had 

an elected leader as well as a fleet of war canoes for use in protecting 

trade and fighting rivals.

 3.2 The Nigerian State
The Nigerian State made up of approximately 350 ethno-linguistic 

group is quite diverse, multi-cultural and heterogeneous. This was 

observed by its colonial masters in the time of its amalgamation in 1914. 

Accordingly, from the onset of its constitutional history by the Clifford’s 

Constitution in 1922 to the Richard’s Constitution in 1946, the need for 

internal autonomy along the three main regional spheres, Northern, 

Eastern and Western was identified. By 1953/1954 therefore, 

FEDERALISM was adopted as the preferred system of governance as 

against the two other extremes of CONFEDERATION and UNITARY

governments which were being canvassed by some of the founding 

fathers. This was appropriately enacted in the 1960 Independence 


It is sad to note that, the lofty ideals of the 1960 Constitution as 

consensually agreed by hundreds of divergent ethnic leaders and 

representatives of the Nigerian Nation in their collective wisdom and 

will, were set aside by the Supreme Military Council in the aftermath of 

the 1966 military coup. Under Decree 34 which established the Unitary 

System of Government, the agreed federalism was brutally murdered. 

Although the name Federal Republic has been retained, and the 1979 and 

1999 Constitutions have in various ways brought in elements of 

federalism, the country largely practices a unitary system of


Even as I try not to make in-depth comments on the current despicable 

state of the Nigerian nation occasioned by several decades of 

constitutional and structural distortions of the political architecture 

designed by the founding fathers at independence, I must note that the 

masses in Nigeria especially the youths and the less privileged who 

constitutes an intriguing majority (90%) of the Nigerian population are 

frustrated, disillusioned and tired of the system that turns them into 

fugitives, slaves and victims of systemic corruption, errant State 

policies, the flagrant abuse of fundamental human rights and pursuit of 

an ethnic/religious agenda of primitive domination, as expressed in the 

lopsided appointments into sensitive positions in the security and public 

service. Every sector of our national life – the economy, education, 

healthcare, basic infrastructure, science and technological advancement, 

etc. seem to have either gone comatose grossly underperforming or not 

just meeting the expectations of the common man. 

 3.2 The Nigerian State

The Nigerian State made up of approximately 350 ethno-linguistic 

group is quite diverse, multi-cultural and heterogeneous. This was 

observed by its colonial masters in the time of its amalgamation in 1914. 

Accordingly, from the onset of its constitutional history by the Clifford’s 

Constitution in 1922 to the Richard’s Constitution in 1946, the need for 

internal autonomy along the three main regional spheres, Northern, 

Eastern and Western was identified. By 1953/1954 therefore, 

FEDERALISM was adopted as the preferred system of governance as 

against the two other extremes of CONFEDERATION and UNITARY

governments which were being canvassed by some of the founding 

fathers. This was appropriately enacted in the 1960 Independence 


It is sad to note that, the lofty ideals of the 1960 Constitution as 

consensually agreed by hundreds of divergent ethnic leaders and 

representatives of the Nigerian Nation in their collective wisdom and 

will, were set aside by the Supreme Military Council in the aftermath of 

the 1966 military coup. Under Decree 34 which established the Unitary 

System of Government, the agreed federalism was brutally murdered. 

Although the name Federal Republic has been retained, and the 1979 and 

1999 Constitutions have in various ways brought in elements of 

federalism, the country largely practices a unitary system of


Even as I try not to make in-depth comments on the current despicable 

state of the Nigerian nation occasioned by several decades of 

constitutional and structural distortions of the political architecture 

designed by the founding fathers at independence, I must note that the 

masses in Nigeria especially the youths and the less privileged who 

constitutes an intriguing majority (90%) of the Nigerian population are 

frustrated, disillusioned and tired of the system that turns them into 

fugitives, slaves and victims of systemic corruption, errant State 

policies, the flagrant abuse of fundamental human rights and pursuit of 

an ethnic/religious agenda of primitive domination, as expressed in the 

lopsided appointments into sensitive positions in the security and public 

service. Every sector of our national life – the economy, education, 

healthcare, basic infrastructure, science and technological advancement, 

etc. seem to have either gone comatose grossly underperforming or not 

just meeting the expectations of the common man. 

The Oct. 2020 ENDSARS protest remains a symbolic reflection of the 

MOOD of the generality of Nigerians. Every one (except those who are 

directly feeding from the king’s table) has at least one reason or other to 

be annoyed with a system that cannot even guarantee the security of a 

sitting Governor. Bandits recently kidnaped 12 Assistant

Superintendents of Police on route Adamawa State amidst mass killings 

everywhere in Nigeria by the military or terrorists. In short, insecurity 

has overwhelmed our great nation.

4.0 Contributions of Ijaw Nation and Ijaws to the Molding and 

Sustanance of Nigerian Project

 This could be seen from the following points of view:

 – The struggle against Western/European domination

 – Intellectual capital development

 – Independence struggle and Press freedom

 – Promoting the unity of Nigeria

 – Democratic consolidation 

 – Voice of courage and defender of the oppressed 

 – Ijaw Nation in the economic nerve centre of Nigeria

 – Ijaws as Trailblazers in Nigeria’s public and national 


4.1 The struggle against Western/European domination

There were very successful and powerful Ijaw kings such as King 

George Oruigbiji Pepple of Bonny (Perekule VII) who ruled the 

th independent trading state in the Niger Delta between 30 September 

th 1866 and 14 December 1883, when he was deposed (Wikipedia, 

retrieved on October 6,2020). After the British signed a treaty making 

the state a protectorate, he was restored on January 22 1887, and ruled 

until his death (Wikipedia, retrieved on October 6, 2020). Other notable 

kings in Ijaw land include but not limited to King Jaja of Opobo, King 

Koko of Nembe just to name but a few who engaged the Whites and 

began the process of resistance even before formal colonization took 


Some of these kings entered into treaties with the Europeans under 

duress while others suffered unimaginable pains and loses from the 

British traders and merchants of the Royal Niger Company. King Koko 

of Nembe for instance refused to sign a trade treaty with the British traders, leading to a conquest in what became famously known as the 

Akassa Raid in which scores of Ijaws and whites were killed, and 

hundreds displaced, while some Ijaw communities were deserted. The 

long histories of exposure to Europe since the sixteenth century, through 

the intermediary roles played by eastern and central coastal Ijaw in the 

trans-Atlantic slave trade in mainly hinterland Igbo and later in palm oil 

products, created complex social and political institutions and strong 

‘city states’ (Nwajiaku-Dahou, 2009:51).

The struggles for self-determination of the Ijaws have undergone several 

dynamics which have shaped the current contestations and debates for 

resource control and restructuring. The current Ijaw nationalism 

suggests the existence of a relatively homogeneous group with a 

relatively recent character of pan-Ijaw ethno-political consciousness 

(Nwajiaku-Dahou, 2009:51). 

4.2 Intellectual capital development

The early contact of the Ijaws along the coastal areas with Europeans 

helped some notable Ijaws such as King Dappa Pepple of Bonny 

amongst others to gain Western education. King Pepple attended the 

University of Hall in the United Kingdom while on exile. The 

intellectual contributions of notable Ijaw writers such as Gabriel Okara, 

J.P.Clark etc to literary development in Nigeria were very profound. 

Their works in prose and poetry had national and international acclaim 

and were globally acknowledged as intellectual giants in the literary 

world. Credit must be given to the pioneering efforts of Prof. E.J. 

Alagoa, Prof. Tekena Tamuno and Prof. Christopher Dime who in search 

of oral and documentary evidence on the history, traditions of origin, 

belief systems, cultural institutions and indigenous political economy of 

the Ijaws and their neighbors, traversed the entire Ijaw nation and the 

Niger Delta. 

Many Ijaws have also excelled in various other fields in the Arts, social 

sciences, management, and natural sciences. Several Ijaws have also 

risen to the pinnacle of their chosen professional fields in the civil 

service, the military, paramilitary and diplomatic services. Details on 

these personalities and their individual contributions to intellectual 

capital development and nation building are captured in the book 


4.3 The Independence struggle and Press Freedom
During British colonial rule in Nigeria, the Ijaws were involved in the 

nationalist struggle that later birthed Nigeria’s Independence on October 

1, 1960. The contributions of Chief Ernest Ikoli to the independence 

struggle and freedom of the press are very notable. Ernest Ikoli (1893 

—1960) was a Nigerian nationalist and pioneering journalist. He was the 

President of the Nigerian Youth Movement and in 1942 represented 

Lagos in the Legislative Council. He was a correspondent of the London 

Times. He was born in Nembe in present-day Bayelsa State in 1893, and 

was educated at Bonny Government School, Rivers State and Kings 

College, Lagos where he emerged as a bright student.

Prominent Ijaws such as Harold Dappa Biriye, founder of the first Ijaw 

Political Party, the Niger Delta Congress in 1956 are very profound and 

represents significant milestones in the political history of Nigeria. 

Harold Jenewari Dappa-Biriye was a Nigerian politician who was 

Chairman of the Niger Delta Congress and was known for his advocacy 

of minority rights at the 1957/58 Nigeria pre-independence conference 

in London. His inputs at the 1957/58 Nigeria Pre-Independence 

Conference in Lancaster London that led to setting up the Willinks 

Commissions is profound. (Dappa-Biriye, 1995:43). He was an early 

member of the NCNC, and also a former Chairman of the Nigerian 

National Council of Arts and Council and it was during his tenure, the 

first festival (NAFEST) was held. Like many of his contemporaries from 

other ethnic groupings in the country, Dappa-Biriye worked for a united 

Nigeria founded on justice, good conscience and fairness to all. 

4.4 Promoting the unity of Nigeria

Isaac Jasper Adaka Boro, a former President of the Students’ Union 

Government of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka was born in Kaiama in 

present day Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area of Bayelsa 

State. As “Leader of the Liberation Government” and “General Officer 

Commanding the Niger Delta Volunteer Service” he declared part of the 

Niger Delta Region “The Niger Delta Peoples Republic” on February 

23, 1966, to free the region from oppression, underdevelopment and 

neglect (Ikporukpo, 2018: 1). This declaration culminated in what 

became famously known as the 12 Day Revolution which was quelled by 

the Nigerian Armed Forces. 

Isaac Jasper Adaka Boro later led other Ijaws to fight on the side of the

Nigerian forces after signing a truce with the Nigerian Government to stop the secession attempt by forces loyal to Col. Odumegu Ojukwu who 

had declared a Republic of Biafra. Isaac Boro’s support to the forces 

loyal to the federal military government contributed largely to the 

triumph of Nigeria over Biafra (Ikporukpo, 2018: 1). Sadly however, 

Isaac Boro was killed in controversial circumstances.

4.5 Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and Democratic


Goodluck Jonathan was the first minority from the Niger Delta to 

assume the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. His 

peaceful disposition averted a potential war in the country in 2015 when 

he accepted defeat to General Muhammadu Buhari. The tension in the 

country at the eve of the 2015 election was so palpable that many 

predicted the disintegration of the country. The exemplary and now 

famous telephone call in which the then incumbent President, Goodluck 

Jonathan conceded defeat to President Buhari and congratulated him 

even before a winner was officially declared, is considered globally as 

the saving grace of a ‘United’ Nigeria. 

Goodluck Jonathan’s political philosophy is aptly captured in these 

immortal words “my political ambition is not worth the blood of any 

citizen”. This statement earned him international accolades as a 

distinguished man of peace, pillar of democracy in Africa and a true 

nationalist. His government was all inclusive, as appointments and 

infrastructure/amenities were distributed to all sections of the country. 

There was no class/religious/gender/sectional discrimination against 

any particular group. Some members of the opposition parties were even 

given appointments in his cabinet as a means of entrenching a 

government of national unity. 

Jonathan also professed that real power is strength under control and that 

“true leaders should use power as a shield and not as a sword”. He 

initiated the Sovereign National Fund, the Presidential Special 

Scholarship Scheme for innovation and development, graduate 

internship scheme, Nagropreneur, Youwin and offered grants for 

budding entrepreneurs and the entertainment industry. He built over 160 

Almajiri schools and established 12 new universities, thus, enabling all 

the 36 states to have a Federal University each. Under him, Nigeria was 

the fourth fastest growing economy in the world with an average growth 

rate of over 6%. He expanded the frontiers of freedom by signing the 

freedom of information bill into law.

Even his critics are not oblivious of his sterling achievements as a peace 
loving statesman, true democrat, a national leader, international peace 

advocate and a bridge builder. However there were huge expectations 

from the Ijaws and Niger Deltans, that he would use his privileged 

position as President to influence the repel of some of the obnoxious 

laws on land use, petroleum/gas resource ownership/control and address 

issues of infrastructural decadence and ecological problems such as 

mass flooding and coastal encroachment that perennially affect the Ijaws 

and the Niger Delta. No doubt, it takes very few persons with in-depth 

understanding of how the present heavily skewed, intricate and 

hegemonic political architecture of Nigeria could, when it suits its key 

players, give out the GOLD CROWN, but withhold the GOLDEN Staff 

of office or better still, transfer POWER WITHOUT



CON/National Leader of Ijaw Nation, South-South Leader

and a Voice of Reason, Courage and Vision for the Niger

Delta Region

Chief Senator (Dr.) Edwin Kiagbodo Clark is a national phenomenon 

and enigmatic institution that has over the years climbed the ladder of 

leadership in Nigeria, in various stages and epochs as a Councilor, 

Teacher, Student Activist, Lawyer, Commissioner with different port 

folios, regional leader etc.

From January 1968 he was Commissioner for Education Midwest State 

and put up policies to advance education in Ijaw land through 

scholarships and by making the only secondary school in western Ijaw at 

that time, St. Brendan’s College, Bomadi then free of tuition fees to 

encourage learning in Ijaw land. Clark built more schools: Mein 

Grammar School Kiagbodo, Oporoza Grammar School Patani,

Ayakoromo Grammar School and Akugbene Grammar School. St 

Brendan College was later renamed, Government College Bomadi.

Apart from schools, Clark used his cordial relationship with Ogbemudia 

(then Governor of defunct Midwestern state) to establish hospitals in 

Bomadi and Ojobo; and extended rural electrification projects to many 

Ijaw riverine communities.

Clark submitted a memorandum and led evidence for the Ogbe-Ijaw people on the 23 June 1997 at the conference hall of the Petroleum Training Institute (P.T.I): “A memorandum submitted by Chief E.K Clark, A national leader of the Ijaw for and on behalf of the Ijaw communities in Warri, Isaba, Ogbe–Ijoh, Gbaramatu, and Egbema to the Judicial Commission of enquiry on ethnic conflicts between the Ijaw and Itsekiri of Warri North, South and South-West Local Government Areas”.

At the Political Reforms Conference in 2005 where the South-South 

agitated for increase in derivation from 13% to 50% following the 

practice in the first Republic that gave 50% to regions for their produce; 

but the Northern delegation rejected this. A compromise was reached, 

that it should be 25% with assurances to rise to 50% in five years. 

Chairman of the conference denied Clark opportunity to speak after the 

18% decision was imposed and accepted by the conference. 

Consequently, the south-south led by Edwin Clark walked out of the 

conference. Some South-east and south–west delegates supported the 

south-south and also walked out. This led to the collapse of that 


When Gbaramatu was bombarded, and Odi sacked in the guise of 

finding militants and looking for those who kill soldiers, Chief (Dr) 

Edwin Clark was a strong voice of reason that restrained the Obasanjo 

regime from killing or eliminating the entire populace of those 

communities. As a national voice he curbed the excesses of the Obasanjo 


He has remained leader of the south–south and when there were rumors 

about scrapping the Amnesty Programme and, major crises between the 

militants and the federal government headed by President Buhari, Clark 

convened a meeting which metamorphosed into a regional body for the 

entire South-South, so that despite limitations of several ethnic groups in 

the South-South, the people could speak with one voice under the Pan 

Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) to stop the exploitation and division of 

the people by majority tribes that rule Nigeria.

It was through his initiative that President Buhari delegated the Vice 

President to visit the region. This followed the nine points demand by the 

body which the federal governments agreed to implement, including return of Oil companies to their operational base and, operations of 

medullar refinery to curb oil bunkering. 

Dr. Edwin Clark, even in his 90s displays uncommon mental alertness. I 

refer to him as the Wikipedia of histories of communities across Ijaw 

and their neighbours, family genealogies, treaties with colonial 

masters, and issues of chieftaincy and inter communal and intra-ethnic 

clashes in the Niger Delta. He is a national bridge builder across ethnic 

divides both in the South-South, South-East, South-West, Middle Belt 


Pa Edwin Clark, OFR, CON is the most courageous, firm, outstanding, 

vocal and influential leader and father of contemporary Ijaw nation, the 

south-south/middle belt and the defender of ethnic minorities all over the 

country. Clark once again expressed his dislike for oppression, 

exploitation, frustration and injustice in all ramifications, in his open 

letter to President Mohammadu Buhari in the following captivating 

words of wisdom and caution.

“While our resources are being managed and subjected 

mainly by people from other parts of the country, the 

people of the oil producing communities of the Niger 

Delta who bear the brunt of degradation arising from oil 

and gas exploratory activities, secure mere soupcon and 

are rendered spectators of the oil business. I am an old man now, I have just celebrated my 93 birthday. But it would 

be unthinkable for me to keep quiet in the face of such 

injustice, oppression and marginalization, unfair and 

unjust treatment being practiced against my people. I can 

say without doubt, we have never had it so bad. I don’t 

know when it will please the Almighty God to call me now. 

But let me sound this note of warning, Things cannot 

continue this way.” PA Clark – Open letter to President 

Mohammed Buhari GCFR in June 2020.

4.7 A Few of Ijaw Trail blazers in Public and National 


Chief Harold Dappa-Biriye was a signatory to the document of Nigeria’s 

independence, representing the minority tribes of the country. Another 

Ijaw son, Chief (Barr) GKJ Amachree was among the few that authored 

the independence Constitution of Nigeria in 1960.He was among the 
first lawyers attached to the Queen of England. Because of his noble 

contributions, he was made the first Solicitor – General of the Federation 

of Nigeria. The Ijaw nation produced the first Nigerian naval chief in the 

person of Rear Admiral Bossman Soroh who captained a warship from 

Europe to the shores of Africa. Brigadier-General George T. Kurubo 

from Bonny was the first Nigerian Chief of Air Staff. (Chief) Prof. 

Dagogo Fubara, was the first African Professor of Geodetic Surveying 

Professor John Pepper Clark Bekederemo was the first African Professor 

of English Literature .Prof. Amb. Lawrence Ekpebu was the first 

Nigerian Harvard graduate of Political Science. Prof. Mrs. Ayebaemi 

Inatimi Spiff became the first female Professor of Chemistry in the entire 

South-South and South – Eastern Nigeria. Ijaws produced the first 

female graduate of Architecture in Nigeria, in the person of Arc. (Mrs.) 

Sotonye Nwosu (Nee Diette-Spiff). Chief Wilson Eselemoendi from 

Ndoro, was the first Nigerian International merchant to build a 2 story 

iron decked trading vessel that traversed the West African coastal belts. 

Mr. Appah Macaulay was the first Nigerian wrestling champion who 

represented the country in international competitions. He later coached 

the world gold medalist, Hon Daniel Igali. The first black Miss World, 

Agbani Darego is an Ijaw lady from Rivers state.

Prof. Eyo Ita, pioneer Premier of Eastern Nigeria hails from Mkpanak 

village in Ibeno L.G.A in present day Akwa Ibom State. The pioneer 

President of Nigeria, The Great Zik of Africa, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s 

original paternity is traced to Pa Lewis Apam of Agbere community, in 

Sagbama LGA of Bayelsa State. Three Ijaw sons, namely; Binaebi 

Numa, Tonwerimi Duere and Imams Amapakobo were in the Golden 

Eaglets Football Squad that won the historic Under 17 World Cup in 

China in 1985 for Nigeria.

Chief Mrs. Osomo Mobolaji from Igbotu in Apoi was the only female 

member in the first civilian State Executive Council of Ondo State where 

she served as Commissioner for Trade, Industries and Co-operative. The 

first speaker of the Ondo State House of Assembly (under Pa Adekunle 

Ajason as Governor) was Hon. Richard Jolowo from Arogbo Ijaw in 

Ese-Ude Local Area. 

The list of Ijaw pace setters and pathfinders is too lengthy to be fully 

accumulated in this paper, thus making the Ijaw-fish brain hypothesis a  horrible and laughable fallacy. In fact, let us add that Seiyefa Koroye, 

from Toru-Orua, as a student of Hussey College, Warri, won the 1969 

Edition of the President J.F. Kennedy’s Memorial International Essay 

Competition; Elisha Guembe from Aleibiri and Tuomo was celebrated 

as the overall best graduating student in the 1974 National Teacher’s 

Training College Examination (nation-wide) as a student of Esenaebe

College, Bomadi. Just of recent, a proud Ijaw Lady Miss Ebizi Blessing 

Eradiri won the Pioneer Double First Class in Law Award as the best 

graduating law student of the Niger Delta University and the Nigerian 

Law School (2020) in addition to 29 other distinguished national and 

international prizes.

4.8 Ijaws Nation as Economic Nerve Centre of Nigeria

By divine providence, the swamp lands, creeks and rivers of the Ijaw 

dominated Niger Delta and adjoining seas have become the treasure 

trove of Nigeria as they produce all the oil and gas which account for 

more than 80% of the Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings.

Accordingly, from 1958 when the first commercial shipment of crude oil 

was taken from oil well No. 1 at Oloibiri in present Bayelsa State, it is 

estimated by the Nigeria’s Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) 

that the oil economy has brought in more than 96 Trillion Naira to 

Nigeria. As at the end of January 2018, Nigeria’s oil production by 

official figures stood at 2.32 million barrels per day. In addition, official 

figures from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), 

show that proceeds from the export of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) 

brought in about $11.8 billion (N2.2 trillion) to the national coffers 

during its first ten years of operation (2004-2014). An almost equal 

amount has been realized from domestic gas sales.

Colonial Annual Reports of 1913 & 1914 also reveal that:

1. Fish which was predominant in Southern Province

(inclusive of Ijaw area) contributed 134,998 pound and 

109,624 pound in 1913 and 1914 respectively to national 


2. Palm oil contributed 1,854,384 pound and 1,571,691

pound in 1913 and 1914, respectively.

3. Timber contributed 106,050 pounds and 86,522 pounds in 1913 and 1914 respectively

– The Ijaw territory have ever since enjoyed unhindered 

access to sea and rivers

– The Forcados, Burutu, Bonny, Onne, Brass Ports etc. have 

remained key spinners of the Nigerian economy from inception. The 

abandoned Burutu Sea Port, the first Sea Port in Africa was built by the 

Royal Niger Company in 1887. No wonder, the Ijaw territory is 

smuggled into the maps of the various ethnic secessionists.

4.9 Forcados, Nigeria’s first Administrative capital

Forcados, a small fishing community in Burutu LGA was the first 

administrative capital of colonial Nigeria. It hosted the Portuguese and 

later, other nationals from Britain, France, Germany etc. and played an 

influential role in Nigeria’s colonial history. Historical sources reveal 

that the Portuguese built a slave dungeon at Forcados in 1475 where 

slaves were kept and later exported to Europe and America. The 

Forcados Slave Wharf built by the Royal Niger Company in 1886 was 

one of the longest in Africa. The popular Forcados Sea Wall was built in 

1616 by the Portuguese to prevent their houses from the threat of flood. 

The Potuguese also built a windmill there in 1472. The Forcados 

Injection Disease General Hospital, the very first in Nigeria and West 

Africa was built in 1890. 

The above named structure and great tourism resources are still visible 

but decaying due to a combination of internal and external leadership 


It is arising from all these that the Ijaws have continued to ask as a major 

ethnic group in the country, for more political participation, especially 

the creation of more Ijaw states all of which are geographically, 

linguistically and culturally contiguous, are clearly shown on the Map of 

Ijaw Nation (see cover page). 

5. Concerns and Challenges of the Ijaws

5.1. Prior to British imperialism, the Ijaw people lived peacefully in 

their indigenous autonomous communities and city-states. They had 

full control of their resources and collective destiny. Under the British 

rule, the Ijaw nation fought against economic exploitation and 

deprivation. The subjugation and marginalization of the Ijaw during this 

era created serious doubt and genuine concerns particularly about their 

future in post-colonial Nigeria. To ally these fears of coercive  exploitation under another repressive instrumentality called internally 

colonialism, the Sir Henry Willink Commission was instituted in 1959. 

The commission described the Ijaws as having a rich environment but 

poor, backward and neglected. It also recommended that they needed a 

special attention for purposes of attaining sustainable development. The 

recommended Niger Delta River Basin was only established after 10 

years, alongside other boards that were not conceived by the 

commission. Worse still, the NDRB was classified under category D 

and designated for least funding.

5.2. Despite the fact that the oil resources in Ijaw account for over 

80% of the Gross domestic product, 75% of national budget and 70% of 

the nation’s foreign earning, there is a legacy of poverty, backwardness 

and neglect in Ijaw land. From the day Shell B.P first struck oil in 

commercial quantity, an historical event that has transformed the 

fortunes of this nation, the Ijaw nation had not known peace.

5.3. The people have been victims of uncountable spate of oil spills, 

uncontrolled gas flaring, indiscriminate canalization, flooding, coastal 

erosion, deforestation etc. These appear as their benefit for bearing the 

resources that sustain this nation. The presence of the multinational oil 

companies has created additional problems to the local economy and 

socio-political institutions and these include the loss of arable land (and 

aquatic resources) price inflation, health hazards, youth restiveness, 

intra and inter communal conflicts, poor parenting, ethical decadence 

etc. They face several ordeals which include:

i. Denial of the people’s rights to the lawful control and 

management of their God-given resources through various 

inhuman and discriminatory policies and regulations.

ii. Structured obliteration of the principles of derivation, revenue 

allocation and economic stagnation caused also by the non-

allocation of marginal oil fields to indigenes of the Ijaw land.

iii. Balkanization of the people into depressive and repressive 

political enclaves thereby institutionalizing the people’s sub-

minority status in the states they inhabit (except Bayelsa); a 

variant of political, economic and socio-cultural imperialism

iv. Environmental despoliation caused by pollution, ocean

encroachment and annual flooding. As a resource person to the 

World Bank sponsored Ogoni remediation exercise, and from 
research studies at my disposal, I state categorically that the Ijaw 

environment is far more polluted and degraded than the Ogoni 

and everywhere else in the Niger Delta.

v. Mass poverty, social exclusion, absence of basic infrastructure 

and general under development. 

vi. No provision for the protection of host communities human and 

environmental rights, support for indigenous miners, general 

welfare and other benefits similar to those captured in the Solid 

Recommended For You

Minerals Act.

5.4. The Interventionist Agencies (Niger Delta River Basin 

Development Board, Oil Mineral Producing Areas Commission, Niger 

Delta Development Commission, Ministry of the Niger Delta Affairs, 

and Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) have woefully failed to 

deliver on their respective mandates to fast track sustainable 

development, security and peace in the Niger Delta due to paucity of 

funds, fraud, oversight-overbearance, leadership crises etc. Instead of 

positively impacted on their target beneficiaries, they have become more 

or less, lucrative cocoa farms and groundnut pyramids of the Nigerian 


5.5. OverMilitarization of the Ijaw Territory:

At the slightest provocation, many Ijaw communities have been bombed 

down by men and officers of the Nigerian Army or Joint Task force. 

While we join many well-meaning Nigerians to condemn criminal 

activities perpetuated by hoodlums in our rural communities, we must 

not fail to advise the military to cautiously abide by the rules of their 

engagement. Most of the victims of reprisal attacks/search for criminals 

are innocent and unarmed civilians. Repeated attacks on Ijaw 

communities have created a sieged mentality and led to internally 

displaced persons (IDPs), loss of lives and property etc.

Acommon experience people face while travelling by boat/speed boat is 

the order to raise their hands within the vicinity of military check points 

that now litter the creeks and water ways. I just hope this exercise helps in fishing out suspected criminals and reduce the nefarious activities of 

sea pirates, kidnappers and cultist in the water ways. The gory tales of 

anguish from Odi (1992) Opia, Ikanya, Ogulagha (2002), Odioma, 

Ogbudugbudu, Elem-Tombia (2004), Bonny Finima, Okodu, Kula 

2007-2008) killings are still fresh in our memories.

The Ijaw leaders and youth/women organization should say a 

resounding No to the continuous indiscriminate and unprovoked 

destruction, killings and militarization of the Ijaw nation, worst still by 

men whose means of up-keep is our oil/gas resources.

5.6. The recent outcry by Ijaw Activist, Ebelo Gabai (Olodiama in 

Edo State and Ajiente Julius (Eastern Obolo in Akwa Ibom) summarizes 

the deplorable conditions the Ijaws in the fringes – (Ondo, Edo, Akwa-

Ibom) are subjected to by internal (State) colonialists. These include:

– Attempt to seize large acres of prime lands from the Ijaw 

aborigenes e.g. Gelegele (for state Seaport project), Eastern 

Obolo – for mechanized agricultural scheme.

– Refusal to present staff of office to Ijaw Kings already installed 

and coronated by their people according to Ijaw customs.

– Denial of employment and empowerment slots allocated to the 

state and by the State

– Ijaw communities are in perpetual darkness and misery 

resulting from no access roads, and basic amenities such as 

health care delivery systems, good primary and secondary 

schools, no tertiary educational institutions, no banks and no 

means of communication. This situation prompted Ex-

Governor Hon. Seriake Dickson to build a hospital at Arogbo 


– The few link roads in the Ijaw axis in Edo state were majorly 

constructed through community self-help efforts. I had the 

privilege to be Chairman of the 13.5million naira fund raising 

event for the dredging of the Iboro Community Canal in July, 


Near loss of the Ijaw language and culture: 

The Ijaw language have been deliberated squeezed out of existence  in Edo and Akwa Ibom States. The Ijaws here bear 

names and speak the languages of their close neigbours.

I must appreciate the Arogbo-Ijaw in Ondo State for been 

exceptional. Their Ijaw language and culture is undiluted. I 

witnessed the display of their rich and original cultural heritage 

during the 2019 Arogbo Day celebration as a Guest Speaker.

– Under-representation in LGA Councils, State and National 

Assemblies. In Edo State for instance, the highest political 

positions reserved for the Ijaws are Special Advisers (SAs) or 

Senior Special Advisers (SSAs) to the Governor. In the State 

Oil Mineral Development Board, there is no Ijaw member 

despite the fact that the bulk of the oil wells are located in Ijaw 


6.0 Way forward to a peaceful and stable Nigeria and a united 

and prosperous Ijaw Nation

Regrets and complaints would lead us nowhere, instead, let us chart a 

new course, maybe a paradigm shift. Government at all levels, Ijaw 

leaders, youths Women & followership must be committed to a new Ijaw 

and Nigerian Project made possible if we agree as follows.

6.1. Nigerian leaders should give all Nigerians a sense of belonging. 

Restructure the country and promote unity in diversity. Implement 

the 2014 national conference report.

Permit me to observe that there is virtually no place in the entire planet 

earth in the present day multi-ethnic civilization, where domination, 

under whatever guise, of one ethnic group over another or others is 

accepted in perpetuity. This ended in the days of the Roman Empire. 

The Communists, the USSR and German examples of failure of 

perpetual domination of minorities due to the power of ethnic 

nationalism and the futility of preserving an un-restructured state should 

be a lesson to the leaders of this country. We need to reecho the remark of 

Colonel Abubakar Dangiwa Umar (Rtd), former Military Governor of 

Kaduna State when he said “favouring some and frustrating others, shall 

bring ruin and destruction to the nation”. Failure to practice true federalism has led to the heightened spate of campaigns and agitations 

for succession by those who feel disfavored. There seems to be so many 

reasons for the on-going mass protests rocking the major streets all over 

Nigerians and by Nigerians resident in countries all over the world 

especially in Europe and America.

Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime (Aristotle, 384-322BC). No 

sane and well informed Nigerian, in and outside of government would 

justify why this nation should be classified among poor countries, talk 

less of being the WORLD CAPITAL OF POVERTY. The country has 

all it takes except good leadership to be stable, peaceful and prosperous. 

The nation suffers more from the impact of mental/moral poverty of her 

leaders and to some extent the followership. How else would anyone 

explain the immoral confiscation and diversion of Covid-19 palliatives 

acquired from public funds and local and international donors, by state 

officials and paramount rulers into their personal warehouses when the 

designated beneficiaries are dying of hunger and lack of medication on a 

daily basis. As a country blessed with enormous intellectual capital with 

many making astonishing waves in business and politics outside the 

shores of the nation, our problem is not the lack of qualified ‘potential’

leaders. It is essentially the lack of the right leaders with the right 

political will to implement, for instance the 2014 Confab Report that was 

painstakingly crafted to deal with the multifaceted problems of the 

country including a credible electoral process that will help place the 

round pegs in the round holes.

6.2 Drastic reduction of the cost of governance and setting our

National priorities right.

In the proposed FGN budget of N13.trillion for the 2021 fiscal year 

tagged Budget of Economic Recovery and Resilience, presented to the 

th National Assembly on Thursday 8 October, 2020. The National 

Assembly (as an arm of government) is given the highest allocation of 

26% of the entire annual budget. Ministry of Education allocated 11% 

(545.10 billion), Police Affairs 9% (441.37 billion); Works & Housing 

(404 billion), Agriculture & Rural Development (110 billion), Health 

132 billion (Wikipedia: FGN budget 2021).

With a whopping 26% spending on the National Assembly that 

constitutes less than 4% of the Nigerian population and far less to crucial 

sectors of Education (far below the African average of 20%), Health and 

Agriculture, how can the country tackle her challenges of accelerated  economic recovery, economic diversification, equity and social 

inclusion, and burden of endless borrowing to do everything including to 

steal and buy luxury cars for the already privileged few, while the 

majority continue to suffer from preventable inflation of essential items, 

regular fuel price hikes, poor schools, medicare, basic amenities etc?

Our priorities are weird. The Federal Government devotes less than 

N30bn for Research and Development in 93 Federal Universities but 

budgets N350bn to prosecute suspected Boko Haram members, and 

spends N160bn on a fake National School Feeding Programme during 

the Covid-19 lock down that witnessed the complete close down of 

schools and other public and private institutions in the country.

The real starting point is the reduction of cost of governance. I am 

tempted to join those who call for all politicians to be paid on the 

National Minimum Wage or IPPIS. There is no justification for the 

discriminatory salary/wage differentials between the Political Class and 

Civil/Public Servant. The salary of a Nigerian Senator is equivalent to 

the take home pay of 47 Professors put together in a Nigerian Federal 

University. The allowance of a ‘Repentant’ Boko Haram which is 

N160,000 monthly can settle the salaries of 2 University Lecturers of the 

rank of Lecturer II with Ph. D. Equilibrating the pay system will chase 

away desperate economic adventurers from the game of politics; reduce 

thuggery and other forms of electoral violence to the barest minimum. 

And only those willing to offer sacrificial service, having amassed the 

requisite experience in business or administration would want to aspire 

for political positions, and society will be better for it.

6.3. Invest in mechanized Agriculture

What food do other regions transport to us that give them the impudent 

voice to threaten a food embargo? Perhaps, the difficulty we may have is 

that our politicians are unwilling to apply the latest strategies to 

transform our abundant natural resources to wealth and prosperity for 

all. Our thick forests are fertile enough for pepper of diverse spices. The 

Ijaw inhabit the plantain, banana and potato belt in Nigeria. 

The largest plantain and banana market in Africa is the ‘Fridays Zarama 

Market’ in Bayelsa State, Nigeria. These take care of our carbohydrate 

needs and for protein. The Ijaws have the highest number of rivers and 

water ways in Africa. The World Bush Report of 1995 identified over  250 fish species in our rivers. In 2004, Asia Agric experts identified fish 

havens in Batere (Ondo) Escravos, Bomadi, Forcados, Burutu, Patani, 

Odimodi (Delta) Agge/Aghoro in Bayelsa State, etc. Recall that the 

Peremabiri Rice Farm was the largest rice plantation in West Africa in 

the immediate pre/post-colonial era. We have not also forgotten that the 

Raffia palm that triggered the Malaysian Agro-Industrial Revolution 

was exported from Ijaw land and are still growing in abundance but yet 

to be fully exploited for huge commercial ventures such are Gin 

distillation and other pharmaceutical and industrial purposes.

Beans, rice, potato, yam and cassava grow very well in our region. 

Sampou and Ayamassa communities are currently exporting huge-

quantities in Oweiburu (Dioscorea dumetorum) to other parts of the 

country. Ijaw land produces the best Red-hot chilly pepper in the world. 

We also have vast and suitable land for breeding pigs, goats, sheep, 

poultry, ducks, turkey, pigeon, snail and cattle so the threat to stop to 

supply of food stuff should be a welcome challenge and a call to our 

leaders and politicians that the business of governance is beyond 

electoral victories. It is about transforming society. If they could just 

purse for a while and delink deceptive and destructive politics from the 

agricultural sector, the entire Ijaw nation would be guaranteed food 

sufficiency and security all season-round.

Just think of it, the value-chain in agriculture is second to none. 

6.4. Reinvest the Gains from the oil and gas sector into 


Suffice to state that historical, cultural and eco-tourism is a natural-

resource industry of the Ijaw environment, and if well explored could be 

a credible alternative to oil and gas dependency. The swampy creeks and 

divergent water ways, high and low lands that are typical of most Ijaw 

rural communities have direct topographic semblance with those of the 

State of Florida, USA that earns over 40 million US dollars annually 

from the tourism sub-sector. The site of Oloibiri Oil Well 1 that looks 

more or less as a used and forsaken bride, can be transformed into a 

beautiful and resourceful tourism destination. This incubating oil and 

gas Museum is similar to the Norways Statoil, Stavenger Project. If 

completed, this could impact positively on the economic and social 

fortunes of the people.

The States and Federal government of Nigeria must learn from the good examples of other oil producing nations especially the Asian Tigers who 

have over the years, as a deliberate tradition, reinvested proceeds from 

the gains of the oil sector into technology, agriculture, education and 

tourism as complementary sources of revenue and antidotes for 

unemployment and unrest.

With the projection that electric vehicles will account for nearly 50% of 

the fleet of passenger cars and trucks by 2040, the time to seek other 

sources of revenue and reinvest the trillion of dollars exploited from Ijaw 

land and the Niger Delta is now. This will amount to economic and 

environmental justice which is imperative for peace and by extension 

development to the Ijaw people, the Niger Delta and Nigeria. The usual 

challenge of security can be totally mitigated if the youths are involved 

as stakeholders in the emergent non-oil business to the extent that the 

tremendous benefits shall have direct and indirect impact on their 


Ijaws are well acclaimed as the best traditional orthopedic doctors, 

traditional birth attendants and masseurs. These potentials can be 

transformed and managed with modern scientific knowledge and 

technology to further boost alternative health care delivery system and 

stimulate medical tourism in Ijaw Land.

6.5. Explore and exploit the abundant under water


The same effort and commitment should be channeled to exploring the 

abundant under water resources in the seas and rivers in Ijaw land. The 

international conference on the development of underwater resources 

held in Yenagoa in 2017 did not only identify the numerous underwater 

potentials but also estimated in billions of dollars, what will accrue to the 

state and local communities if these resources are maximally exploited.

The recent Zamfara State gold exploration saga should rather be seen as 

a wakeup call that restructuring is not only possible but also profitable. 

It should also provoke the leadership of the Ijaw Nation and the Niger 

Delta to oscillate the quest for resources control and fiscal federalism 

from mere rhetoric to praxis. 

The very common water hyacinth (pontedena crassipa) with its 

problematic nature hinders navigation in the creeks and rivers, 

especially at the peak of the flood season is proven to be useful for 

making textiles, paper and Camouflaging fish traps. It is also a reliable source of biomass for biogas (Wikipedia). Meanwhile, the NDDC and 

Local Government Councils spend huge sums of money annually to 

clear them as waste. This brings us to my earlier thesis that the 

Ijaw/Niger Delta region do not lack job and wealth creation avenues and 

resources. What we lack, unfortunately is the appropriate persons in 

appropriate positions to redirect the energies and resources of 

government into providing conducive environment (energy, food, 

people friendly policies and capacity building (on attitude sound 

knowledge and financial back-up) of youths and other unemployed to 

turn things around for the good of society. 

6.5. Address the Leadership Question in Ijaw nation

Every society deserves the quality of elected leaders they have, because 

they are the direct products of their choices and preferences. History is 

replete with cases of how those who prefer sentiments (kinship, religion, 

cult class and friendship) and desire to satisfy immediate needs, 

painfully become the first victims of the emergent poor governance.

On the Leadership Question in Ijaw Nation, we must underscore, the fact 

(as I earlier asserted) In 2007) that: 

Agitation for Resource control and

improvement on derivation principles, huge 

annual budgetary allocations …. are no doubt 

very crucial and necessary preconditions for 

growth but must not be considered as sufficient 

ingredients for sustainable development.

These must be anchored on and complemented 

with visionary leadership and a dedicated fight 

against corruption; and prudent management 

of resources.

The times and situations we find ourselves presently, call for leaders 


Content: Knowledgeable, visionary and skilful, competence, and 

capacity for quality service delivery.

Character: Integrity, decisiveness, honesty, courage and perseverance, 

humility, selflessness, pedigree.

Commitment: sense of responsibility, dutifulness and sensitivity and 

combat readiness. 

Call for sacrificial service: Passion and dedication to service.

Charisma: motivational, inspirational, resourcefulness, doggedness, 

enterprising, intimidating (vocal, and resilient).

Ijaws must set aside primordial sentiments and other selfish 

considerations and go for the best in all elections and appointments. 

Representation and governance is easier and made more profitable to all, 

when round pegs are positioned in round holes.

Leadership recruitment and mentorship should be based on the ideals of 

integrity, experience, public spiritedness, capabilities and positive 

antecedents. Political leaders must endeavor to transform the genuine 

Youths into true leaders of today and tomorrow, as the practice of 

patronizing criminals with juicy political appointments is becoming 

increasingly counterproductive. I join the call for automatic job and 

scholarship award to Miss Blessing Eradiri, the Ijaw lady with the best 

National academic record in Law.

I worry so much over the near loss of the Class of independent Minded 

and Self-sustaining non-partisan Elder Statesmen and Leaders of 

Thought in Ijaw land. The absence/indifference of this class of persons, 

who could speak truth to power, mediate between and reconcile 

differences in political and chieftaincy squabbles, has cost the Ijaw 

colossal damage. One will only appreciate the enormity of this statement 

when viewed vis-a-vis the time and raw cash wasted on the serial 

political litigations associated with every single election in Ijaw land. 

Instead of prevailing on the political actors to always play by the rules, 

guidelines and approved electoral procedures and allow public/mass 

interest, over their selfish concern to always be in control either 

personally or by proxy, a few of our Elder States Men and Royal 

Majesties who have mortgage their integrity and sacred audacity on the 

altar of political and monetary patronage endorse these ill-facted actions. 

No doubt, there are few exceptions, but these ones are excluded from the 

scheme of things.

6.7. Deficit in Responsible Followership

The Ijaws also suffer from Responsible Followership Deficit due to 

greed and sycophancy. Responsible followers would hold leadership 

accountable for how their common wealth is expended. Ijaw nation is in  dire need of followers that can speak truth to power, constructively 

criticize and suggest better options for peace, unity and good governance 

in Ijaw land. They should be the ones asking questions relating to how 

well the Ijaws in positions of authority at the Federal, State and LGA

levels have prudently managed the different allocations received from 

the Federation’s account directly to the State/LGA, Ecological fund and 

also the 13% derivation fund. They should be monitoring compliance to 

extant laws/mandates, budgets and contracts processes etc associated 

with the Niger Delta Development Commission, Niger Delta Ministry, 

the Presidential Amnesty program, Ecological funds, and government at 

all levels.

Followers have a great responsibility to check the excesses and 

selfishness of leaders whose priority seem to be the use of their current 

positions to aspire or climb to the next office even if it means betraying 

and undermining the development and happiness of those that voted 

them into power.

6.8. Attitudinal Transformation

In my lecture earlier this year (20/03/2010) at the University of Port 

Harcourt Alumni Merit Award Ceremony held in Yenagoa, I did observe, 

and would wish to further stress the need for attitudinal transformation 

among the Ijaw people as a necessity for peace and development in the 

Ijaw nation. I have identified the following areas of interest:

a. Poor sustainable investment mentality among the well-to-do; 

and inability to defer gratification and preference for quick returns on 

opportunities by the underprivileged. 85% of the poverty alleviation 

support facilities that were intended to grow businesses have been sold 

out to satisfy immediate lust, thus expanding the circle of poverty. While 

the youth cry over lack of jobs, many feel too civilized to be involved in 

artisan enterprises, transportation and fishing that are currently 

dominated by non-indigenes

Self-development is more of a process than a project that begins with 

setting your priorities right. When the number of prayer houses, hotels, 

fuel stations in the land are almost triple the number of schools, hospitals 

and factories/supermarkets owned and managed by Ijaw indigenes in 

their own land, it is difficult to escape the firm grip of backwardness in the land.

b. The second and most worrisome is the strange spirit of envy, 

hatred, mutual suspicion, blackmail, betrayal, high service pull him 

down syndrome, lack of trust for a fellow Ijaw man and other forms of 

modernized witchcraft and divisive tendencies that have taken the place 

of the cherished Ijaw cultural values of brotherhood, unity, we-ism, 

comradeship, and truth and mutual support that held us together in times 

past as people of a common ancestry.

6.9. Ijaw Unity in Historical Perspective and the necessity for

a united Ijaw umbrella 

Between 1934 and 1990, the Ijaws living in several parts of the country 

had formed different socio-cultural platforms as vehicles to drive the 

process of their unity and champion their cause for freedom and self-

determination. Prominent among these organizations were the Ijaw 

Rivers People League (1942), Ijaw Union (1952), Rivers People 

Congress (1953), Rivers Chiefs and Peoples conference (1956) and Ijaw 

Peoples Union (1964). Through these platforms, the Dappa-Biriye led 

Ijaw representation at the Nigerian pre-independence conference 

1957/1958 held in London, made remarkable impact by exposing the 

fears and yearning of the minorities of the Niger Delta. The highly 

spirited agitations against regionalism (Eastern domination) and the 

eventual creation of Rivers State in 1967 are direct results of the efforts 

of the socio-cultural organizations formed by Ijaws during this period.

By 1990, many Ijaw politically conscious cultural associations had been 

reenergized in many parts of Nigeria (Lagos, Warri, Port Harcourt, 

Benin, Akure) essentially to draw attention of government to the plights 

of the Ijaw people, and the poor state of their local environment. Several 

Ijaw youth bodies had also sprang up, who were eager for a change in the 

status quo of exploitation, marginalization, degradation and

hopelessness that had gotten to unacceptable degree. Unfortunately, 

however, these Ijaw interest/pressure groups were unable to nurture the 

required central organization (of all the Ijaws) to effectively promote 

National (Ijaw) unity, cohesiveness and consciousness essential for Ijaw 

survival as a people and the pursuit of self-determination in line with the 

dreams of Adaka Boro and other Ijaw heroes in the struggle (INC 

Brochure, 2014). Again, because of the lack of a central body, they were also ineffective in 

interrogating the marginal political/economic conditions of the Ijaws in 

the Nigerian federation. It was in response to these pathetic conditions 

that three distinguished Ijaw fathers/leaders; Chief (Dr.) H. J. R. Dappa-

Biriye, Chief George A. Weikezi and Chief F. H. E. Brisibe, under the 

th th th auspices of the Ijaw People Union (Lagos) on 25 , 29 and 30 of 

October, 1991 held series of meetings that laid the foundation of the Ijaw 

National Congress (INC).

The Ijaw National Congress was conceived in 1991 to:

a. Work for Ijaw unity and promote Ijaw National consciousness

b. Create a forum for all Ijaw people to meet to discuss the plight of 

Ijaw man in Nigeria and in the Diaspora

c. Familiarize Ijaw people with the problems of the various Ijaw 

zones, and

d. Adopt a coordinated, centralized and united approach to finding 

solutions to Ijaw problems. (INC Bulletin, 2014).

The Patani Convention of 1991 saw the emergence of Dr. (now) Prof. 

Dime as the first president and P.Z. Aginighan as pioneer Secretary of the 

INC. An All Ijaw delegates conference held in Kaiama in 1993 where a 

communique reiterating the creation of three homogenous Ijaw states 

was released. The body also inaugurated the Ijaw Council of Ijaw Elders 

nd and Conference of Traditional Rulers on 22 March 1994 at Port 

Harcourt. The increasing awareness generated by the activities of the 

INC, especially the effort at internationalizing the Ijaw struggle led to 

the establishment of INC in USA and the Ijaw National Alliance of the Americas on 5 September 1998. Similar bodies were formed in UK and 

Ireland. INC has a constitution that is operated at the National, Zonal (3) 

Chapter (4) and Clan (50) levels. Chief Joshua Fumudou’s National 

Executive Council of the INC consolidated on the humble foundation 

laid by his predecessor and attracted national attention to the activities of 

the INC via their various protestations against exploitation of the Ijaw 

people. Their opposition to the unguided dredging of the River Niger is 

an effort worth recalling.


Some landmark achievements of the INC include:

Unification of all Ijaw-Sub groups, that hitherto operated 

independently as either as Nembe, Ogbia, Epie, Izon etc 


ethnic organizations.

The production of an authentic Ijaw Map and Ijaw National Anthem.

The initiation of Ijaw House project (INC International 


Headquarters in Yenagoa in 2005.

Commissioning of the Ijaw History Project.

ünd 2 memo for the Review of the 1999 constitution was presented 


to the National Assembly.

Presentation of INC intervention on the Petroleum Industry Bill 


(PIB) to the National Assembly.

Presentation of INC intervention on proposals on the 

amendments to the Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal


Commission Act.

Presentation of the INC memo to the presidential committee on 

modalities for proposed Nigerian National Conference. Etc.

Sad enough, since the removal from office of Prof. Obianeme as 

President of the INC, the umbrella of unity and symbol of the Ijaw 

struggle have been bedeviled by series of leadership crises,

fractionalization, dissolution of structures, court cases, etc. 

The Ijaw people have ever since not been able to canvass, articulate and 

sensitize her people and the Nigerian public on a common position on the 

State of the nation and properly define their future in and outside the 

Nigerian Project. Ijaw nation must put her house together to be able to 

clearly and publicly articulate a strategic plan to address the questions of 

where we are and where have to be with respect to current wobbling state 

of the Nigerian nation.

This brings to fore the urgent necessity to resuscitate the Ijaw National 

Congress, the only nationally and internationally acclaimed collective, 

authentic and irrepressible voice of the Ijaw people. The INC is the 

umbrella body and symbol of Ijaw unity and struggle for self-

determination. There can’t be a substitute for INC and IYC on Ijaw 

matters and concerns. The Kaiama Declaration (1998) and the All Pan-

Ijaw conference at Patani (1992) were beyond that what the ordinary 

eyes could see. They were unique convocations of the living and the dead 

of Ijaw land.

 I hereby encourage those saddled with the responsibility of midwifing 

the electoral process that will lead to the emergence of a new National 

Executive Body of the Ijaw National Congress to, in the interest of the 

overall survival of the Ijaw race and the struggle for self-determination, 

particularly in the present unpredictable state of the Nigerian nation, 

expedite action on doing the needful. For sure, a united Ijaw front across 

the Niger Delta and beyond is formidable enough to harness or reclaim 

our lost political gains, including senatorial/governorship seats in some 

states in the Niger Delta.

6.10. Building the Achievers Attitude in Ijaw Youth

A greater proportion of Ijaws are youths and so many are jobless, 

directionless and hopeless. Building the achiever’s Attitude in Ijaw 

Youths is a key imperative for Ijaw unity and prosperity. Relying on my 

Constructive Engagement Thesis (CET) Okaba, (2017) which advocates 

deliberate injection of proactive and active sensitization,

conscientization and mobilization strategies of crime and social control, 

rather than castigation and stigmatization, we could build Youths with 

the Achiever’s mentality. The CET is premised on the fact that 

meaningful engagement, enlightenment and encouragement inspired by 

the determination of the youth to succeed could breed positive change 

that is internally energized and eternally sustained (Okaba 2014).

Cultivating the entrepreneurship new order in the youths and the 

unemployed, would require embracing Bruce Barton’s wisdom that 

“Nothing splendid has ever been achieved by those who think that 

something inside them is inferior to the challenge or obstacle facing 

them and Francis Bacon’s principles of not just waiting for 

opportunities to come, search for them and optimize them to your 

satisfaction when they come your way. The Youths should open their 

eyes and explore with their hindsight and foresight to see those rear but 

important opportunities. To overcome hopelessness, the following 

requirements must be taken seriously:

– Determination and perseverance to succeed.

– Readiness for mentorship. Identifying a ROLE MODEL, or 

with groups and serving people faithfully. 

– Be focused, maintain a direction, set goals and follow an action plan rather than wallowing from pillar to post

– Read habitually especially about people, events, innovations 

related to your enterprise

– See delay and failure as stepping stones into bigger

opportunities. Don’t give-up easily, rather re-strategize and 

move forward. Identify good lessons in every failed attempt or 


– Finally, be self-confident, self-reliant, optimistic, innovative, 

foresighted, creative, flexible, resourceful, versatile,

knowledgeable and task-result oriented.

The youths can be a huge asset to themselves and society if we 

consciously support them with good quality entrepreneurial education, 

skills and; motivate and engage them in profitable ventures. But if we 

fail, they shall turn back to torment us. Let’s support them to escape the 

temptation of criminality.

Surely, our future is not dependent on the quantum of gold, silver, oil, gas 

etc in our possession today, but squarely on how best we prepare the 

youths intellectually, entrepreneurially and attitudinally to tackle the 

opportunities and challenges of today and tomorrow and with additional 

capacity for global competitiveness.

7. Concluding Remarks:

7.1 Ijaws are not strangers or mere spectators in the Nigerian 

Project. As a cooperate entity they have, from the cradle of Nigerian 

existence made enormous contributions to its growth, sustenance and 

development. In the words of Pa Edwin Clark, Ijaws must not see 

themselves and be treated as second class citizens in Nigeria. Ijaws are 

economic and political stakeholders of the first order (Clark, cited in 

Agoro Thomas, History of the Ijaw struggle, unpublished) 

7.2 The Ijaws in their individual capacities have made profound 

contributions to the Nigerian project, to keep it as a united, indissoluble 

and prosperous country, the ethnic tensions and separatist movements notwithstanding. This is even more obvious when we consider the fact 

that a bigger proportion of the wealth of the nation since independence is 

generated from Ijaw soils across the various states in the Niger Delta.

7.3 The excruciating pains and concerns of the Ijaws include the 

fact that, in addition to the various degrees of deprivation,

neglect/human and environmental injustices suffered in the process of 

exploiting oil and gas resources for national development, the people’s 

indigenous economy is disarticulated and the present perverse federal 

system denigrates their human essence. Their cultural values, ethical and 

social systems are distorted. The Nigerian state should therefore 

acknowledge these sacrifices and do justice to benefit the people without 

further delay.

7.4 Nigerians across ethno-religious, political and class divides are 

unanimous in their desires and prayers for a better Nigeria that provides 

its citizens with conducive and enabling environment for ALL to strive 

in peace, justice, unity and fairness. Restructuring or better put, a 

deliberate return to the political structure and philosophy (with some 

modifications to meet the realities of modern times), as freely agreed by 

representatives of ethnic nationalities at Independence, remains the 

irreducible acceptable condition for a stable, peaceful and united 


7.5 The political leadership should explore all avenues to genuinely 

address youth empowerment in this country. The present ad hoc and 

cosmetic approach is not likely to save us from the impending national 


7.6 However, Ijaws on the hand must put their house in order by 

building vertical and horizontal bridges of unity amongst themselves 

and across to their close neighbors. We must think Ijaw first, build Ijaw 

first and defend Ijaw first in all circumstances, in the event of any 


7.7 Permit me to conclude this paper by reechoing the voice of the 
Amazon of the Niger Delta, Lady Annkio Briggs in her submission to the 

2014 National Confab, Abuja thus. 

The minority nationalities of the Niger delta 

(Ijaws inclusive) and other parts of Nigeria have 

fought and sacrificed to keep the country together. 

They have borne the cost of mineral exploitation 

for the benefit of Nigeria. They have suffered 

hardships and humiliation as minorities in this 

country. However, they can no longer continue to 

sacrifice their rights to survival. While we must 

be our brother’s keepers, our brother’s must also 

be our keepers. Keeping cannot be one sided. Let 

us also not forget so fast that from 2006-2009, oil 

production in Nigeria was almost completely 

halted by armed agitation from the Niger Delta. It 

is only a restoration of the principles of true 

federalism, including the ownership and co-

management of natural resources by the

federating units that can save Nigeria from the 

brink to which it is so gradually tottering, (2014, 


God bless you for your patience and understanding. 

Long live the Ijaw Nation 

Long live Nigeria.

Selected References

Alagoa E.J (1972) History of the Niger Delta: An Historical 

Interpretation of Ijaw Oral Tradition. Ibadan, Ibadan University 


Agoro Thomas (2013) History of Ijaw struggle, unpublished. 

Akparakata Gesikeme (2020) Heroes of the Ijaw Nation. Gesikeme and 

Sons Integrated, Yenagoa,

Appiah, A., & Gates, H. L. (2010: 596). Encyclopedia of Africa.

Henry Louis Oxford University Press.

Bob, C. ( 2005:55). The Marketing of Rebellion: Insurgents, Media, 

and International Activism. . Cambridge: Cambridge 

University Press.

Briggs Annkio (2014) Submission on Derivation of the Committee on 

devolution of Power and Minority Report on Devolution of 

Power at the 2014 National Conference, Abuja.

th Clark Edwin (2020) Open Letter to President Mohammadu Buhari 13

June 2020 

Colonial Records on Nigeria 1913 & 1914

Dappa-Biriye, H. J. (1995:43). Minority Politics in pre- and Post-

Independence Nigeria. Port Harcourt: University of Port 

Harcourt Press.

Executive Summary of Report of Committee on Ijaw position on 

Restructuring of the Federal Representation of Nigeria, (2018).

Gedicks, A. (2001:50). Resource Rebels: Native Challenges to Mining 

and Oil Corporations. South End Press.

Ikporukpo, C. O. (2018: 1). From Adaka Boro to the Niger Delta 

Avengers: The Dynamics and Management of the Revolt in 

Nigeria’s Niger Delta. nternational Journal of African and 

Asian Studies, Vol. 43.

INC, (2014) Ijaw Day interactive programme Brochure, (2014).

Jonathan Goodluck (2018) My Transition Hours: Ezekiel Books, USA

Kingwood Kingwood, USA. 

Nwajiaku-Dahou, K. (2009:51). Heroes and Villains: Ijaw Nationalist. 

Council for the Development of Social Science Research in 

Africa, Africa Development, Vol. XXXIV, No. 1.

Okaba B. (1997) Why Nigerians Bury their Money: An Ethnography 

of Ijaw Contemporary Burial Ceremonies: PH Enihai 


Okolo, P., & Inokoba, P. (2014). Democracy and Resource Conflict 

Resolution: Making a Case for Democratic Solution to the 

Niger Delta Crisis. . International Journal of Development 

and Emerging Economics, Vol.2, No.2. Wikipedia, retrieved 

on October 6, 2020.

Okaba (2005) The Ijaw Nation, imperative of Democratic governance 

as Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development. Paper 

presented at the Annual Delta Ijaw Collection Agenda (DICA) 

Celebrated on 30 September 2005 at PTI Effurun Warri, 

Delta State.

Okaba (2008) Use Ijaw Language and Culture or Lose It. Paper 

presented on the occasion of the 2008 Boro Day Celebration 

th in UK on the 15 of August at Resource Centre 356 Halloway 

Road London.

Okaba (2019) My Travel Note During the INC Presidential Campaign 

to Lagos, Akure, Benin, Port Harcourt, Abuja, Eastern Obolo, 

Abua Oduah and Warri.

Okaba (2018) Ijaw Unity Ahead of the 2015 elections Lecture 

nd delivered at 2019 Ijaw Merit Award Ceremony on 2

December 2018 at Wellington Hotel, Warri Delta State.

Okaba (2019) Entrepreneurship and Youth Development, a solution to 

Youth criminality in Ijaw Nation. Lecture delivered at the 

sensitization workshop organized by The IYC Eastern zone at 

th Arogbo, Ondo State on 26 September 2019.

Okaba (2020) Alumni Associations and National Development. 

Lecture delivered on the occasion of the Merit Award/Dinner 

ceremony of the Uniport Alumni Association, Bayelsa 


Talbot R.A(1962) Tribes of the Niger Delta, London: Oxford 

The Ijaw, the Niger Delta and the Nigeria State, Ijaw National Congress 

st Paper 1 , June 2006,

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